Culture Matters

Zulu cultureThe ever wise wiki states that the word culture “is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior and norms found in human societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, capabilities, and habits of the individuals in these groups” and that “humans acquire culture through the learning processes of enculturation and socialization, which is shown by the diversity of cultures across societies.”

Human cultural diversity never ceases to amaze me. It’s wonderful that there is so much diversity in the way people live, think, behave, work, relax, worship, and do those things they do. A monocultural world would have been not just boring but it would have been a danger to survival. The logic of life dictates that diversity is essential for survival. That said, I wish there was less diversity in some aspects of human culture — the tolerance of littering.

At one extreme are the Japanese. They appear to be culturally incapable of littering. At the other extreme are the Indians. They are culturally incapable of not littering. Here, take a quick look at this video about littering in Japan.

So there you have it: a foreigner in Japan being totally struck by the lack of trash in Japanese streets. Here’s another foreigner in India totally shocked at the garbage on Indian streets.

Those are just two examples of the story of trash in two countries. There are dozens — if not hundreds — of videos of the phenomena on YouTube.

I point this out not to gratuitously run down India. It is to provoke Indians to admit they have a problem and do something about it. I think Indians have to address this problem because, firstly, they created the problem, and secondly only they and no one else can solve it. The first step to solving any problem is to acknowledge that the problem exists, and the second step is to understand what causes it. What causes it? I think it is stupidity. It is stupid to not care about one’s surrounding; it’s stupid to not take responsibility for one’s actions; it’s stupid to tolerate ugliness and filth.

If people don’t care to admit the problem and do something about it themselves, can the government do something? Yes, the government can something. The government can do something. But that something has to be the right thing, not just anything. The government of India did do something — and that something was the wrong thing.

The wrong thing is the idiocy of “Swatch Bharat” nonsense. Appropriately the logo was a pair of round-rimmed glasses representing M K Gandhi’s eyewear. Gandhi was the master of making a bad situation worse. That’s why I say that the SB logo was appropriate. Stupid people do stupid things — including following certifiably crazy people.

Indians sometimes explain away the filthiness of India by saying, “Look, Japan is a rich country and India is a poor country.” I agree with them, “Yes, Japan is a culturally rich country, and India is a culturally poor country — at least when it comes to cleanliness.” Even when Japan was not as materially rich as it is today, for centuries the Japanese have valued cleanliness. As late as in the early mid-19th century, the Japanese considered Europeans to be dirty and lacked personal hygiene.

Alright, that’s my rant for the day. Whenever I have important work to do, I always shirk by going off on rants.

Thanks to APD for a twitter link to a video that provoked this post. Thanks a lot, Mr APD. And now I have wasted your time.

Ah, what the hell. In for a penny, in for a pound. So there’s that video that APD linked to.

Author: Atanu Dey


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